October is here and that can only mean one thing—Metropolitan Riveters hockey has returned. The 2017-2018 defending Isobel Cup champions are back and ready to defend their title. This year, the National Women’s Hockey League looks a little different as they have expanded to five teams. The Minnesota Whitecaps are here and ready to make some noise. The Riveters actually opened their season on the road against them Saturday October 6 and Sunday October 7. They were defeated 4-0 and 3-1, with Jenny Ryan scoring the lone goal. Let’s look at some key factors from the offseason from Metropolitan.
Additions (signings only not rookies)
Kristin Lewicki…After spending her rookie season with the Buffalo Beauts, Lewicki joins the defending champs as the leagues fastest skater with a time of 13.41 seconds. She edged out the previous season’s faster skater; her new teammate Rebecca Russo. They will not be starting the season on the same line but maybe that will change as the season progresses.
Amanda Kessel…This is more of a re-addition, but after taking last season off for Olympic training, the better Kessel sibling has returned to the Riveters. She comes off a gold medal campaign with Team USA and is sure to make a heavy impact once again. She will look to add an Isobel Cup ring to her very full resume. She will be on a line with Russo and Alexa Gruschow.
Randy Velischek…The former New Jersey Devils defenseman has accepted the head coaching position left vacant by former Albany Devils forward Chad Wiseman. He has some big shoes to fill as Wiseman was the coach from the inaugural season and left on the highest note possible—winning a championship. It will be interesting to see how he tackles this as he does not have too much coaching experience in Women’s hockey.
Ashley Johnston…The original captain of the Riveters from day one has decided to go out as a champion. She retired following the end of the season. She will always be known as the first captain in team history and if the league ever makes an NWHL hall of fame she is sure to be inducted.
Tatiana Rafter…A forward who played all three seasons, two with the Riveters and her rookie year with the Buffalo Beauts. After what can only be described as three solid and hard fought seasons, she has decided to take her talent and play in Russia for the 2018-2019 season.
Harrison Browne…The first openly transgender athlete in sports has decided to retire as a two-time Isobel Cup champion. Once with Buffalo and then of course, the Riveters last season. Browne is going to be remembered by more than just the NWHL, and is iconic in the entire sports world.
Cheeky Herr…She was left unsigned by the Riveters. Current free agent.
Lindsey Hylwa…She was left unsigned. Current free agent.
Lauren Wash…She was left unsigned. Current free agent.
Audra Richards…There is no sugarcoating it for this forward. Richards was absolutely incredible during her time at Maine. She had 70 points in four seasons with the Black Bears. She is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season and I believe she will be a serious contender to be rookie of the year.
Chelsea Ziadie…This defenseman had an incredible preseason showing a lot of poise and potential to really have an impact on defense and offense. She will start on opening day on the top pair with defenseman Shelly Picard.
Lexi Slattery…The rookie defenseman will be put in as the seventh defenseman on Saturday but she will be dressed and playing. Do not rule anything out for her yet as coach Velischek is still getting to know his players. Expect the entire lineup to change a couple times throughout the year.
Alexa Aramburu…The final rookie addition will see some third line time this weekend. Again, none of these line up positions are permanent. Velischek is going off one preseason game and what he saw in practice. So for now Aramburu will spend time in the bottom three but she was still very solid at Oswego and could be what many would consider a silent assassin.
The defending Isobel Cup champions have a major target on their back as both Buffalo and Minnesota are threatening with stacked Olympic rosters to open the season. There is no question that the Riveters will finish in the top-three. My ultimate estimation would be second place for Metropolitan and a rematch against the Beauts in the Isobel Cup Final.
You can catch all Riveters action either @NWHL Twitter or nwhl.zone for all games.